My phone rang all night long that night, everyone calling to ask me what happened. Until I could talk with Dennis, who was the captain of Natalie's family yacht called the Splendour, I really could give no insider details. Dennis was in L.A. -- I was in NJ, coast to coast separation. Then Dennis's brother, Paul Davern, told me he and their mother (also in NJ) had not heard from Dennis, either.
I thought for sure Dennis would call his mother, if not me. We were simply that close, and everyone seemed to know it because my phone rang for days. I decided not to call Dennis even though I immediately sensed something terribly wrong. News from media offered up a tragic accident, but there was that one report from Coroner Noguchi that mentioned an argument aboard the yacht.
It was about a month later, near Christmas time that year, when I finally connected with Dennis. It was his first night back aboard the Splendour since the night Natalie had died. He was going to sleep in the master stateroom that night and was feeling extremely uneasy. So, we talked about most everything but the tragic night Natalie died. Dennis did not want me to hang up but after three hours on the phone, I finally asked, "Den, everything's not right about that night, is it?" All he said was, "You know it, but that's for another time." So, I dropped the subject, but began a mission.
That's when I started collecting every single item released about the night Natalie died. I started making phone calls, and every word spoken about that night went into a record book, and every article went into a box...(boxes and notebooks I still have today). The mainstream media left the story alone within a month after the tragedy, but the tabloids followed Dennis constantly, and offered him large sums of money to tell "the truth." But Dennis internalized and let the truth eat away at him instead -- until about eighteen months after Natalie died. That's when he finally called me to talk about the details he had saved for "another time."
My suggestion was for him to immediately call the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, but he insisted he would be killed if he did that, that he would have to move far away from Hollywood before he could take a step like that, and that he wished he had been taken in for interrogation the day Natalie was found, but he, Wagner, and boat guest, actor Christopher Walken, were allowed to go home immediately after Natalie's body was discovered in the ocean. There was no true investigation, nor interrogations. Instead, an attorney, paid for by Wagner, had been assigned to Dennis the day Natalie was found, and Dennis was told to "say nothing."
So, Dennis was suspended in time and action. Finally, two years later he was able to break away from the West Coast and he moved East. The tragic night haunted him to physical alteration -- literally, Dennis was a destroyed being, physically and mentally, and as I vowed to help him through it, I also vowed to help achieve justice for my favorite actress, Natalie, a woman Dennis claimed was every bit the sweetheart the world had come to know her as.
Dennis sacrificed more than many people know about. Thirty-three years later, I learn that Dennis had every right to fear for his life. And, to this day, I do what I can to preserve the truth for Natalie's legacy, and to appeal for the justice she still deserves.
Again, for those who believe something thirty-three years old should be left alone, please try to understand why this case should never be left alone until resolved. It's because Natalie was so famous that she was denied true justice, and that has nothing to do with Dennis's choices. No one should tolerate injustice in any situation where justice is denied.
The persistent sub-theme in this decades-long saga is the inconsistency of our very justice system. Robert Wagner is the only suspect in Natalie's death, which now actually comes from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department that failed Natalie in 1981. It is they who are telling the public as clearly as they possibly can at this stage of the investigation reopened in 2011 that Natalie Wood's death reeks of foul play. She did not "get drunk and fall off a boat."
For thirty-three years now, I have always believed that Natalie Wood was murdered and that her killer was the "usual suspect" -- her husband. And, I'm damn mad to this day that he got to skip over the usual steps of a typical death investigation just because he is part of the Hollywood community, and that family-oriented production companies such as Hallmark choose a homicide investigation suspect to play Santa Claus (this year). It's as if the media has not done their part to cover the gist of this new investigation either. How could Hallmark not have known? It's Hollywood propaganda at work, and expensive criminal defense attorneys working their tactics. There is no doubt, proven by physical evidence that Natalie was not alive in the water, which is sadly comforting, but also key evidence that she did not get into the water on her own. The Splendour is not a boat one "falls from." There was no "adjusting a banging dinghy," also proven improbable if not impossible in this case.
I love the attention Natalie gets from her long list of fans, and I love that people still remember her and adore her. Young people are falling in love with Natalie all over again, and she deserves it.
This photo is one I asked my son to design for me to show the original publisher of GNGS, as I liked this photo of Natalie depicting Natalie at her favorite past-time, but publishers wanted another beautiful photo of her, which I also liked. Yes, she was a mega-star, but she was also a mother of two who simply liked to spend time at the everyday things like everyday people. This is how Dennis Davern knew and remembers Natalie Wood. It's how I like to remember her today, too.